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Smoked Pork in Sagada

Smoked Pork in Sagada

Origins - Sn 1/Ep 7Origins - Sn 1/Ep 7

In the mountainous region of Sagada, Erwan sets out to find out more about a local favorite smoked pork: Etag. Along the way, he meets a French chef, an Etag producer, and a local cook who teaches him about indigenous Igorot dishes.

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Transcript

- Hi, I'm Erwan Heussaff. Join me as we travel the Philippines and discover the food and the people that make this country a special place. Welcome to the Philippines. A mysterious gem composed of over 7,500 islands. I'm Erwan Heussaff, a Filipino and French cook and traveler. I'm always on the move and after unique flavors, interesting people, and immersive experiences. But sometimes, when you look too far away you miss out on what's right in front of you. I'm on a journey to uncover the origins of this amazing country and the food I love. I'm in the beautiful Cordilleras Region and I cannot wait to experience what we're about to see here. Something about the mountain air that just gets me so energized and so happy. It's fresh air, big, big trees. We're here in Sagada, a place known for having lots of tribal activities, lots of different traditions, folk lure tales, lots of stories that we've been told as kids, and it's just such a beautiful place. We're here to try the food of the region. Something that people don't necessarily come here for, but is absolutely delicious. I'm gonna get my hands dirty, get some rice, figure out how to harvest it, try some etag, a nice smoked Filipino version of bacon, and I just can't wait to show everything to you guys. Sagada is a small town in the mountain province on the northern Filipin island of Luzon. It's famous for it's rice terraces, waterfalls, centuries old burial caves, and serene mountains. Although agriculture is the main source of income in Sagada, it also earns significantly from it's tourism industry. I've come here to taste the delicacies that only this region produces. We started out our journey from Ilagan City. As we got closer to Sagada, the landscape changed dramatically. From flat and monotone, to steep and breathtaking. Aside from rice, the regions moderate climate provides the perfect environment for growing coffee beans. Relatively unknown, this region is slowing starting to be recognized for its outstanding heirloom varieties. Wanting to sample some for ourselves, we stopped by a local favorite, Bana's Cafe, to have a sip and visit their small roastery. The smell of fresh coffee, along with the crisp mountain air, punctuated the peace this little town emanates. Before letting the cool air put us to bed, we decided to visit a local legend, the Log Cabin Restaurant. We had heard about a French chef living elusively in this region, coming out sometimes to cook private dinners and going around teaching locals some sound cooking techniques and how to use the produce found in the mountains. Chef Aklay, as the locals endearingly call him, translates to 'tall white man with curly hair'. - They are not used to seeing a white man who speaks their language. - So, you speak the local dialect? - Enough to interact, enough to ask questions, enough to crack a joke, enough to make them smile, that's good. - That's enough. - Oui, that's enough. Open doors. - He grew up on a farm in France and decided to attend cooking school. After working in a few restaurants in his mid-twenties, Philip went to where his bike took him, quite literally. He reached the Middle East, then biked Indonesia, and eventually found his way to the Philippines. - It was the other side from where I started. If I keep on going, I would be going back. I don't like city, I like mundane. So I went as far as I could go from my point of origin and I mean, look outside the window. It's like paradise. - When he arrived in Sagada, he met the owner of the Log Cabin Restaurant and asked him for a room in exchange for cooking knowledge. - It was 20 years ago when Aklay came to the restaurant. He told me, "I am a chef, I need a room to stay tonight." I know he is very tired, so okay, I have room for you. A deal was struck and since then, he's been living in Sagada. - Cooking is an easy way to make people happy. Feed them and then they come to you, "Wow, very good!", and that's it, I'm happy. You feed people, fill them up, and they say thank you. - Chef Aklay cooked us a feast from an array of local ingredients. The one that stood out to me the most was similar to a French Pate, but had a very smokey pork flavor. This flavor was present in most of the dishes and it came from the locally prepared etag that I had heard so much about. - Etag is the local ham. So, it's smoked meat, which is salted first, and it's the traditional way to keep the meet before cold storage. - The technique has been passed down from generation to generation, becoming a staple in celebrations. We wanted to learn more about how this regionally delicacy is created. So, we went to talk to one of the preferred etag producers. I'm with madame Martina and she's gonna teach me how to do etag. So, etag is actually quite a unique dish because if you've traveled the Philippines, you don't see a lot of dried and then smoked items with pork and beef, it's actually quite rare. And this is basically our own version of a smokey bacon and from what we've tasted, it's actually quite delicious. - It's a native pork, so it's much cleaner. The commercial porks are a bit fattier. So, this is actually the type of pork that you wanna use for this kind of dish. Okay, so we'll start by salting it. - So, you just rub it in? - Yes. - So, kamote's basically a local sweet potato. Obviously, you eat the sweet potato and you give the leaves to the pigs. It's all organic, the way I like it. What's the main purpose of salting? - Preservation. - And who taught you this recipe? - Ah, you learnt it by yourself? Oh, wow. And how long have you been making this? - So, after one week, since there's already salt, you don't need any refrigeration, it get preserved. And then after a week of curing in the salts, put it in these spikes? - Yeah, you do it like this once. - Okay. So, it's like sewing. Try it? - Try. - Do I need to tie this first or no? No need? - No need. - This is a good part. When you cook it, do you cook it with the bones fed in? - Yes. - So, if you use fresh tools, that's where you get a lot of the flavor and all. That makes a lot of sense. And then we bring that outside in the smokehouse. - Smoke one month. - Minimum one month? You really taste all the flavor and everything. - Yeah. - Favorite part, I get to choose whichever I want. That's a dangerous game. - Alright, this is my favorite part, I get to try it. I've got a pork hawk here that's been in the smoker about one month and then I'll try it. So, this should be really salty already right? Mmm! It's like a pork jerky. Now, the skin. Smokey, meaty. I can see how this is the perfect started for stews, soups, broths. And that bone probably has so much flavor. Smoking, curing, sun drying, and salting, and all techniques that have been used for food preservation for thousands of years before electricity. After experiencing how etag is prepared by smoking, we went to find out more about another popular technique used in this region known as fermentation. Fermentation is the process of using bacteria or yeast to convert carbohydrates into alcohol. It's now becoming wildly popular because it creates probiotics that aid in digestion. I was surprised to find that Sagada has many types of traditional fermented dishes and I really wanted to learn more about them. So, I visited a local chef for a demonstration on how to prepare three different types of fermented foods. Tapuy, Sinigtiman, and Enetagan Ay Pising. - So, this is the rice wine preparation? - Yes. - Okay, so, that's a mix. you said, of black and white rice, correct? - Yes. - And he's pounding the? - The bobaut. - What exactly is bobaut? - Bobaut is made of sugarcane juice with ground rice. - So, it's a yeast, basically. It's a starter. - You have to sprinkle it here. - So, you don't need a lot. A very little bit is enough. - I'm sure this one will be very strong because I put too much. - It's okay, that's no problem. Strong rice wine is always a good thing. - Okay. - So, this is where the fermentation will happen. What's the longest you can ferment it for? - Three to four days. - Three to four days. - As you keep it, it becomes stronger. - Do you say most of the consumption of this is more to make food, or is it to drink? Half and half? - More drinking because for harvesting season we used to bring Tapuy with us in the fields. - It's more fun to harvest when you're drinking rice wine. - So, that's it. You have to wait until this steam stops before covering it. - And then, that three days, and then it becomes the - Fresh Tapuy after three days. - Fresh Tapuy after tree days. So, what's the name of this dish? - We call it Sinigtiman. - So, these are mudfish? - Yeah, that's mudfish. - Is that from the local river? - Rice patties. - Okay. How do you fish for these? - Before, we make basket, but nowadays, there's an easier way. You see, this is the pop bottle, Coco Cola bottle. It was like this, right? Just cut it, invert the opening, tie these holes, then the fishes will just go inside. - Ah, cool. Okay, very smart. - That's how they catch those fish. - Nice. So, now we just have to wait for this to boil? - Yes. - So, who taught you how to make all of this? Your mom? Your grandma? - My grandma. - Your grandma taught you? That's the best way to learn. - Because my mom doesn't know anything, she go out to work in the fields while I work with my grandmother. Even in the rice fields, in kamote fields. I used to go with my grandma, so she's the one teaching me everything. - Once it's boiling - Salt. - Is there any particular way to clean the fish, or is it just washed in water? - We usually just wash it with salt. - Wash it with salt, okay. - And then rinse it in running water. - And then you can use it. - Then cook it. - After the mudfish has been boiled and salted, it's time to add the sigtim. Sigtim is a sticky rice that has been fermented with bobout. And this juice has a little bit of alcohol? - A little bit of alcohol. - How often do people eat this? - Quite seasonal because you cannot have just mudfish when the rice paddies are newly planted. Nowadays, harvesting season is from June, July, August. So, from those months, you can have this until the planting season starts. - Oh wow, okay. So just like three, four months maybe? - Mm-hm. So this is done. - This is done already? Okay. It's good. - Because it was freshly caught. - Yeah, it's good. It almost reminds me of a good oyster, in terms of flavor. - Mm, yes. This is the etag we sliced and fried and cook it. We boil it for washing because of the salt. - Yum. - This one is what we are cooking. - This is a stalk of agave and this is the taro roots. - Oh, this is a lot. - It's like for a village. - Yeah. But when it's cooked it - It goes really low. How cooked does everything have to be here? - Everything is soft. Over it again. - Until that reduces, reduces, reduces. Yeah. - Yes. Tengba is this one. This is with crabs. - With crabs. - The measurement of this is one pound of crab. - Yup. - One pound of rice. - Okay. - One cup salt. - Wow, that's a lot. - But it tastes - It tastes really good, obviously. So, this is ready already? - A little amount of water, then we dilute it. Because if we are going to add it directly, it might curdle. Stir it. This is the indigenous way of cooking. - This is the best way of cooking. Can I taste it already? - Mm-hm. How is it? - It's good. - Try the Taro. - Yeah, it's delicious. It's like a very savory stew. It's thick, look at that. Egot root gravy. - That's an egot root dish. - Once we had learned all about fermentation I wanted to discover more about the importance of rice in the Cordilleras region. One of the biggest tourist attractions here are several world-renowned rice terraces. In particular, the rice terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras. These have been listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. They are a perfect example of how an indigenous cultural landscape has been preserved for thousands of years and remain unaffected by colonial influences. The terraces are nestles throughout the far reaches of the Philippine Cordilleras mountain range in the Ifugao province. This is the historic home of the Ifugao ethnic group. The term Igorot, is an old Tagala word meaning, 'people from the mountains' and is a general term used to include all of the mountain tribes from the Cordilleras. They live in six different provinces in the region with over 20 tribes, all speaking different dialects, and each having their own beliefs and cultures. The Ifugao are one of these tribes. Anthropologists have regarded them as possibly the oldest residents of the highlands, dating back as early as 800 BC. We made our was south from Sagat and the mountain province to Hungduan, a municipality in the Ifugao province and one of the best places to see pristine rice terraces. Most of the culture and life in the Cordilleras revolves around rice. Planting, growing, and harvesting are all sacred. The varieties you'll find are considered heirloom, because these particular strains are endemic to the region and passed on from generation to generation, grown by families in their ancestral lands. The rice grains can be of different vibrant colors and have an intense flavor that regular, processed white rice lacks. I wanted to try my hand at harvesting, so I rolled up my pants and got to work. - If you want to learn our traditional way of harvesting We will not include these leaves. - Absolutely remove everything. So, just like this, and then I keep it here, yeah? - Can you try it one more? You might not be able to go tomorrow. Go home. - That's very reassuring, thank you. I work with knives, I promise I know what I'm doing. Rice is such an important staple in the Filipino diet and we actually import a lot of it here in the Philippines but it's actually amazing to see that we are still practicing heirloom rice practices and people are still eating it and people still think it's important to keep doing it. I didn't know how difficult it would be to actually go harvest for rice, and in a matter of maybe 30 minutes, I just managed to get only enough for one kilo of rice. So, I can only imagine how long it takes them to go through all those paddies and I have the highest respect for them. So, I urge everyone, when you have rice on your plate, especially heirloom rice, or any type of food that is grown by people who love what they do, just try to finish it as much as possible and just really respect the ingredients that are in front of you, because it takes a lot of hard work and it's good to see that it's being done by people who love what they do. While in the Hungduan region, we were lucky to be able to observe the famous Punuk rice harvest ritual. Every year in this area, it's held to celebrate the end of the rice harvest season. Over a two day period, three barangays, or villages, gather to give thanks and blessings of post harvest with a celebration culminating a tug of war. The Punnuk takes place in the Hapao River, which flows through the heritage rice terraces. The ritual activities meant to cleanse the soul with organic figurines being offered to the river as a sign of thanksgiving. Throughout the two day period, all functions are performed by mumbakis, or tribal priests, who are ordained specifically to administer the various required blessings. The three provinces challenge each other in a tug of war ritual with men, women, and children participating. Instead of using a rope, two long, sturdy branches, known as pakid, are interlocked and bound together. The event is a time for the whole community to come together to celebrate. As culture progressed this ritual fell out of habit. However, in 1999, the celebration was revived, but no visitors were allowed. 2014 was the first year that invited outside visitors were permitted to attend. This trip opened my eyes to all the things I have yet to learn about my own country. From seemingly forgotten rituals, to basic food preparation. Fermentation and drying have been talked about in every important kitchen over the last two years and people are now starting to apply this technique at home, but it's something that humans have been doing for centuries. We just forget to look back at our heritage and realize that we must first be students of history before confronting the future. At the end of the day, everything is ciglical. From food preparations, to travel trends, to fashion and music, everything always comes back. Because we always feel the need to plant ourselves and rediscover our roots.

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